Unifor flags safety concerns after Sunwing’s intention to hire temporary foreign pilots

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Sunwing airplane

TORONTO –Unifor is concerned about Sunwing’s plan to use Canada’s temporary foreign worker program to hire pilots from countries with less rigorous training requirements, raising concerns about safety. 

“Sunwing will essentially be able to use the TFWP to hire pilots who do not meet the company’s own training requirements. The company is able to do this under the guise of professing there is a labour shortage, when the real issue is investing in training for local pilots,” said Lana Payne, Unifor National President.   

“As a union we expect rigorous analysis before an employer is allowed to use the TFWP especially when workers are covered by a collective agreement. In this case, the issue is complex and the TFWP should never be used to circumvent typical labour relations discussions and resolutions to workplace problems,” said Payne. 

In mid-October, Unifor sent letters to Sunwing President Len Corrado and to Steven West, the director of the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program overseen by Employment and Social Development Canada.

Those letters charged that Sunwing Airlines has not done enough to fill open positions by hiring permanent pilots within Canada. The union recommended that West deny the airline’s Temporary Foreign Worker applications.

The airline plans on hiring roughly 65 foreign temporary pilots this winter to operate from various Canadian gateways, to alleviate worker shortage as pandemic restrictions ease and travel continues to ramp up. Sunwing is paying the European pilots a higher rate than full-time Canadian Unifor pilots. 

“Sunwing’s intention to hire temporary foreign pilots makes no sense at all – paying them more and requiring less experience than that of a Canadian pilot, when there is no shortage of available pilots in Canada,” said Barret Armann, President of Unifor Local 7378, which represents 450 Sunwing Pilots.

These temporary pilots, mostly from Czech Republic, require less flying experience, just 3,000 hours for captains compared to Unifor’s captains who log a minimum of 4,000 to 5,000 hours. The temporary pilots also have no experience using Aviator (a navigation flight planning tool) and still use paper flight plans, added Armann.

The union has not been informed of whether a risk assessment of the use of the temporary pilots has been completed (to Canadian Labour Code Part 2 standards) considering the reduced training and experience required, crew mixing and Canadian weather challenges.

Unifor represents 16,000 members across Canada in the aviation sector, including 550 members who work for Swissport, a contract company doing work for Sunwing in Vancouver and Toronto.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For more information, please contact Unifor National Communications Representative: Jenny Yuen or (416) 938-6157.

Media Contact

Jenny Yuen

National Communications Representative